Chapter 245 Feast 5
Aldrich took a tentative sip from the alcohol in front of him. The fact that it glowed what looked to be a suspiciously radioactive green did nothing at all to whet his appetite, but if it meant boosting his standing with his units, then so be it.
The taste was bitter, far more bitter than the Cool Lite that the Blackwater students loved to down. It was also strangely cold, not just in a refreshing way, but in a slightly numbing way.
"A tiny sip like that!? From my warleader no less!? How could this be!" Volantis shouted in despair to the heavens.
"Do not insult our master like that! He is finding out whether it is even worthy for his tastes!" said Okeanos. He was starting to get a little shaky. Seemed that in terms of sheer tolerance, he stood below the likes of Volantis and Leos.
Whether that was because Okeanos still had flesh and shell and blood while Volantis and Leos were a living set of armor and a pile of bones was up for debate.
"Hah, I knew the Usurper was but a mere boy!" Leos shook his flaming skull of a head.
"You would insult the one I chose as my own Usurper, Leos?" the Death Lord leered at the skeleton. "You will find yourself sorely mistaken. I know that my Usurper has what it takes to be Lord over Death!"
'Being death lord means crippling alcoholism…?' thought Aldrich.
"Do not pressure him," said Valera. "This way of drinking is quite inelegant." She swirled her wine glass of blood around with smooth, controlled motions. "Drink is meant to be savored, not downed like water after a long march."
"You vampires do have an obsessive wine culture. And a flair for the elegant," said the Death Lord. "And such pride, too. There was a reason I could never get your kind to join me." She cocked her head at Aldrich. "How DID you manage to tame this one, I wonder? Noble born vampire lady with an obsessive-violent streak. Hm?"
"Time and dedication," said Aldrich, and his words were honest. He was still speaking in game terms, but it was true: Valera's tie with him was high because he had spent hours and hours of time trying to unlock the highest level of bond with her, and she was perhaps one of the most difficult companion characters to do that with.
Aldrich noticed Valera had turned bright red, looking shyly away from Aldrich.
"Time and dedication, hm?" the Death Lord put a hand to her cheek. "How sweet. And admirable, Usurper. Time and dedication lets flowing water carve canyons. They are powerful tools to have, especially as an undead. But you know what is just as important?"
"What?" Aldrich said, expectant of the wisdom of an almost two thousand year old dragon.
"Drink!" the Death Lord pointed a clawed finger at Aldrich's still full mug.
"Here I thought I was going to get legitimate advice," sighed Aldrich.
"It is proper advice. Come now, look-," The Death Lord pointed over to Volantis, Leos, and Okeanos who all stared at Aldrich expectantly. "Breaking bread and sharing drink makes or breaks armies and kings. Even among dragons, it is a familiar concept."
Valera put a hand on Aldrich's arm. "If you do not want to do this-,"
"It's alright, Valera." Aldrich cracked his neck, like he was about to actually fight something. "I've got this."
Aldrich picked up his mug and started downing it. He ignored the funky taste and just focused on taking in as much liquid volume as possible.
"Now that is what I call a proper Warleader! The mightiest of Orcs would find their hearts quivering at this display!" Volantis shouted.
"Heh, I knew you had it in you, boy," said Leos.
"See? My master is the best at everything," said Okeanos.
"Hahah! Now that is the spirit!" the Death Lord waved over a skeleton waiter holding a barrel. "Bring that over!"
The skeleton raised the barrel towards the Death Lord, looking at the table for her mug but realized soon she had none. The skeleton chattered its teeth in questioning.
"I need no such thing!" the Death Lord grabbed the huge barrel from the skeleton, holding it high above her head with one hand, and then punched a hole into the wood with the other. This created a spout that poured liquid down like a flood.
The Death Lord, like a snake, literally unhinged her jaw, letting her drink the entirety of the sizable outflow.
"You really are a snake…," Valera eyed the Death Lord with equal parts repulsion at the inelegant behavior and wonder at how much she could drink.
Aldrich put down his mug. He had drank all of it. His head felt numb, the cold of the drink seeping into him.
This really did go through his undead poison immunity. He wondered how that even worked, but he found it difficult to think too hard about it. "And this is why I don't like drinking."
"Ahh, how refreshing." The Death Lord tossed her now empty barrel far away.
"Another! For the warleader!" Volantis slammed his mug down on the table, smashing it into pieces.
"Aye, I can drink to that," said Leos, the flame around his skull flickering even brighter.
"Drink for the master. Exciting!" chimed in Okeanos.
Aldrich found his mug refilled back to the brim from a skeleton waiter.
"So, how much more do I have to drink?" said Aldrich.
"How much more!? Such a question is a grave sin!" Volantis exclaimed. "In a feast for a new Warleader, the drinking and devouring does not end until all is consumed. Or until blood is drawn! Or both!"
"Sounds like chaos," said Aldrich. "Which I happen to not appreciate much."
"Indeed," said Valera.
"Sounds like a grand old time!" corrected Leos. "Hah, it is a shame you were not like this before, Volantis. I would have liked you far better instead of that serious hunk of metal you once were.
It got very tiring being the only one among the Deathguard willing to let loose once in a while."
"And now-," Volantis wrapped his arm around Okeanos in brotherly fashion. "You have two willing to drink you under the table! Or atleast until that undying flame of yours fades!"
"You seek to quench the Flame of Avarice? The flame that sent the entire Rheingold Kingdom into ruin? I accept your challenge! More drink!" Leos motioned the smaller skeleton waiters to come by.
The Death Lord stood and patted Aldrich on the shoulder, motioning her to follow. "Let's get in on this competition of theirs, shall we?"
Aldrich stood but looked to Valera, making sure she was okay or whether she wanted to join in.
"I will stay in the sidelines and watch," said Valera. "Anything other than bloodwine does not really suit my stomach well. Plus, I am simply happy looking at you enjoy yourself."
"I wouldn't call reckless drinking enjoyment," said Aldrich as he looked down at this topped up mug.
"But seeing your troops thrive is, is it not?" the Death Lord.
Aldrich took his gaze from mug to Okeanos and Volantis and their happy energy. He nodded. "Yeah. I guess it is."
Aldrich woke up in his bed in the Necropolis. The first thing his eyes saw were Valera looking down at him. He was laying in her lap, her hand stroking his hair.
"Are you feeling alright?" said Valera.
"As well as I could be, all things considered." Aldrich sighed and closed his eyes again. A headache banged at the depths of his brain, as did a general sense of nausea.
When he tried to recall what happened, he only got hazy bits and pieces that amounted to nothing decipherable. "I thought the Death Lord said she was going to stop me from getting to this point. What happened?"
"When she drank that entire barrel, I suspected she would not make good on those words. Even if she is a dragon, I assume someone like her would have made sure her drink had the ability to knock her out." Valera sighed.
"…Yeah, you do have a point." Aldrich laid there for a moment, not thinking of anything, just collecting himself. It felt nice lying there with a caring hand comforting him, but he could not stay like that forever.
Aldrich raised himself up, putting a hand to his head. "So what did happen?"
"Chaos, as you predicted," said Valera. "Okeanos was the first to fall, falling unconscious. Then Leos, his flame dimming as he too fell victim to drink. At that point, the Death Lord, three barrels in, made it well known that she was one of those drunks that causes nothing but trouble.
She challenged you to a fistfight."
"A fistfight? What?" Aldrich furrowed his brows. "I feel like with her current level, she would have killed me."
"She had the presence of mind to limit her strength at the very least."
"So? Who won?"
"You did," said Valera. "She was far too uncoordinated to do much. She mostly flailed about while yelling about how great she was. You, on the other hand, fought even better under the influence."
"Right. I'm not too surprised, I guess. I've trained to try and fight under mind control or poisons that limit my motor control," said Aldrich.
"Yes, and when she lost, she could not accept it and threw a tantrum, unleashing some of her draconic breath. She froze over most of the banquet room," said Valera as she put a palm to her face. "And that ended the feast right there. I put you and Okeanos out of harm's way, but Volantis and Leos were ice blocks for many hours.
After her tantrum, the Death Lord promptly passed out, and that was that."
"Yeah. That does sound like chaos." Aldrich sighed.
"Here." Valera put a small blue crystal fragment in Aldrich's hand. "Eat it."
"Hm? What is this?" said Aldrich.
"The Death Lord awoke from her slumber surprisingly quickly and got to work on your request. Thankfully, she did not forget. It is a prototype of your healing flask replacement," said Valera. "Apparently it should clear you of any ill effects like the poisoning from the drink."
Aldrich swallowed the fragment. It felt cold as it went down, but not numbing like the alcohol. It was a refreshing type of cold that woke you up, like stepping outside into wintry snow from a warm house.
Almost instantly, Aldrich felt better, his headache and nausea scattering away.
"Well, atleast it works," said Aldrich.
"Yes. I would have given that snake an earful if it did not after all she had you go through," said Valera.
"It wasn't the worst thing to go through," said Aldrich. "Might not have been my thing and I don't remember too much, but I guess it wasn't all bad."